MADRID — New school term, new mystery. Beautiful young bodies still make out, in ever more surprising combinations, in “Elite” Season 2.
But there are greater depths and ambition to the Netflix Spanish high-school hit, if the first two episodes of Season 2 and a Madrid press conference involving cast and creators are anything to go by.
First details of “Elite” Season 2 come as the series has been renewed for Season 3, Diego Avalos, director of originals in Spain, announced at the Thursday presentation.
Season 2 follows a tried and tested flash forward format. In the first season of “Elite” someone is murdered. In Season 2, someone goes missing. As the hours tick by – 36 at least by the end of Ep. 2, – hope of finding them alive plunges dramatically.
That set-up gives the suspense thrust to “Elite” Season 2, the Spanish teen crime/social thriller which, produced once more by Zeta Audiovisual, bows on Netflix worldwide on Sept. 6.
With the original watched by over 20 million household accounts in its first month of release, according to Netflix, a new season marks one of the biggest global drama series plays to come out of Spain.
In several ways, however, “Elite” Season 2 marks a departure, its innovations driving much discussion at the Madrid press conference when series creators Carlos Montero and Darío Madrona and series’ cast fielded questions from Avalos and the press.
“We wanted to keep the fast-forward formula as a staple of the series, but at the same time be different,” said Madrona.
Most obviously, in terms of innovation, there are new characters. One is Lu’s brother, Valerio- “half brother,” he repeatedly corrects – an ecstasy guzzling party-party addition to Las Encinas, his hedonism hiding hurt. He is played by Chilean Jorge López (“Soy Luna”), as Netflix builds its pan- Spanish-language-world star system.
“Valerio has a super-rich interior world. It’s been doubly surprising to get to a new country but feel so comfortable,” López said at the press conference.
Claudia Salas (“The Plague”) plays Rebeca, an outspoken but stylish working-class girl – think Nairobi of “La Casa de Papel” or Spanish singer Rosalía – . who teaches Samuel to box; Georgina Amorós (“Locked Up”) is Cayetana, a budding Internet icon with 39,000 plus Instagram followers.
“Elite” 1 and 2 both have a “Big Little Lies” structure: Scenes flash forward to the police officer of Season 1 again questioning suspects. But “Elite” 2 may in many ways bear more similarities to “Stranger Things” Season 3, whose first two seasons were majorly plot-driven.
The characters in “Elite’s” original season border stereotypes: the Mexican rich bitch (Lu), the working class bit of rough (Cristian), the neo-aristo macho (Guzmán). but they escape total buttonholing.
Now, having established audience character engagement, “Elite” 2, like “ST 3, drives deeper into their interaction, in continued coming of age narratives which are deeply inflected by class and economics.
“In the first Season we were conscious that we were making a series for Netflix, and tried to put everything into it,” said Madrona, at the press conference.
He added: “For Season 2, we thought that we had the opportunity to explore the characters and the new ones as well. But it was an instinctive decision.”
“What attracted me immediately to the series was that the characters were so well-constructed, so mature and with such rich interior life,” added Silvia Quer (“I Know Who You Are,”), one of the series’ three directors, alongside Ramón Salazar, whose “Sunday’s Illness” was a Variety Critic’s Pick, and Dani de la Orden (“The Best Summer of My Life”).
Two examples of new character depth: Although he’s sworn to her father to stay clear of her, Guzmán (Miguel Bernardeau) can’t help but be attracted to Nadia (Mina El Hammani). But in Season 2, Nadia lets her hair down, literally, metaphorically. The stunning results are caught in the official trailer. And she’s ever more an independent young women, with a larger sense of self and of Guzmán.
“I’m not a princess who needs to be rescued and you, of course, are not a prince,” she rebuffs Guzman when he siddles up to her in the library.
Samuel, meanwhile, has achieved an admirable moral equilibrium about bad boy brother Nano’s betrayal, carrying on with Marina behind his back.
“I’m going to do everything I can to get you out of here. No matter who goes down,” he tells Nano, visiting him in jail. But, he adds: “Even if you didn’t hit Marina, if they killed her for that watch, they killed her because of you. Because you stole it. You decided to blackmail those people. You gave it to Marina. That’s why I will never forgive you.”
Then there’s the direction. “We support the creativity of our creators. When Carlos and Darío brought us Season 2, we could see that we could raise the bar in characters and stories and production values,” Avalos said at the press conference.
“I don’t know how much more money the series cost but I have the sense the series achieved a leap in quality and, also, that I made the series I wanted to, and that’s a rare sensation,” added Montero.
“Elite’s” second season went into production in January 2019, when the audience for Season 1 was known. But its screenplays had been written before Season 1’s release. It boasts the same clean-cut visuals – seen in much high-end Spanish series nowadays. In Season 2, however, the directors can play around more formally. There’s one notable early action scene – it would be a spoiler to go into detail – which no doubt required a sophisticated rig and gaffer. That in turn forms part of a complex, intertwined triple parallel sequence build to the thud of electronic disco music which is no little achievement in pacing and resolution.
That sustained sequence also points up eloquent social contrasts. The whole premise of “Elite” is one of a social gulf, the opposition, scorn and sexual attractions sparked when three students from humble backgrounds in the local working class part of the village are given scholarships to Las Encinas. That social context and gulf is explored with more depth and, perhaps more than anything else, more acute consciousness and articulacy by the characters.
“Prison is full of people like Nano. His only crime is not having enough dough to hire a hotshot lawyer,” Christian, riled at playing a toy boy, tells Carla early in the new season.
As an Internet icon, Cayetana comes in at one of the series’ central theme – appearance is all – from a new angle. “She’s apparently happy but has a lot of levels and isn’t at all what she seems,” said Amorós.
Discussed at some length at the press conference, social media will obviously play a significant role in the series.
”The theme of social media is really quite complicated. Having more followers is thought sometimes to mean you’re a better person but it doesn’t,” said El Hammani.
“The problem of Instagram is that it that there is no disclaimer saying ‘This is fiction’ and that can be dangerous,” said Madrona.
“We have to be thankful to social media which brings us nearer to our fans but it has to be managed intelligently, socia media can consume us,” added actress Danna Paola, who plays Lu.
But some things stay the same. “Elite” shows us that adolescents around the world have much more in common than differences,” said Netflix’s Avalos.
It’s the age, however, of the super-niche. The students at Las Encinas were 16 last year, the series is often described as a teen drama. But, thanks to its distinctive social consciousness, its audience spreads far wider. If early reactions to “Elite” Season 2 are anything to go by, that can be expected to build all the more.